Contactmusic.com recently ran a review of J Burn's 'Burnt Blue' EP. The review promulgated the rumor that Burnt Blue was a trial run, sort of a crash test dummy for a soon-to-be-released full-length album. Well, guess what? The rumor was true. In anticipation of the album, called 'Randomly Banded', J Burn just released a single from the album. The single is called 'Shine'. It's a teaser, a song that's supposed to tantalize listeners with a taste of what's to come - the musical version of licking cake batter off the mixing spoon.
Burn lives and records in San Francisco, where he hangs with renowned musicians like Bob Weir. In fact, Burn records at Weir's TRI Studios. Bob Weir, of course, was an integral part of the Grateful Dead, famous for their eclectic, unique brand of music. Burn is attempting to continue that eclectic style of music, combining influences from folk, bluegrass, country, blues, reggae, rock, space rock, jazz and psychedelic. And he pulls it off admirably, except it just doesn't work. For it sounds exactly like what it is: replicated, simulated, artificial and synthetic.
Happily, on 'Shine', Burn has reduced the trend toward obese melodies prevalent on 'Burnt Blue'. 'Shine' is much leaner, crisper and cleaner - the result of fewer instruments and less layering. The single kicks off with a modified reggae beat, then Burn's vocals jump in. His voice is laid-back, non-threatening and safe to the point of overcompensation. In short, it's as bland as plain white toast. The keyboards on 'Shine' are excellent, reminiscent of those on Eric Clapton's 'Layla', which translates into good stuff. Unfortunately, the keyboards can't save the song. The moment the harmonies begin, it's as if The Incredible Hulk smashed through the wall. The cringe factor increases exponentially, getting worse simply because it's getting worse.
The melody on 'Shine' is little more than a diluted version of the Grateful Dead. Even the guitar licks resemble the Dead. The operative word there is "resemble" in the "smack of" sense. In other words, 'Shine' bears a resemblance to the Dead, but that's all. 'Shine' reminds listeners of Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead; and once reminded of better times and better music, Burn's music pales in comparison. 'Shine' has two things going for it: excellent musicianship and a respectable arrangement.
If 'Shine' presages the rest of the tracks on the forthcoming 'Randomly Banded', gird up your loins and prepare to do what the Knights in Monty Python's Holy Grail did when confronted with the Killer Bunny Rabbit: "Run away!" There are those, of course, that enjoy Burn's music. There's no accounting for taste, is there? Still, Burn's songwriting talent is undeniable. Perhaps 'Randomly Banded' will surprise listeners with something new and different.
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